Frequently Asked Questions
What is the Jewish Enrichment Center?
The Jewish Enrichment Center is pioneering a progressive model of Jewish community and learning for children and families, rooted in empathy, text study, and creative expression.
We raise the child’s voice in Jewish learning. Through our unique communal project process, children grapple with Jewish text and emerge with a new understanding of self and the world. We run a school in Hyde Park, Chicago, and teach our mindset and methodologies to educators nationwide.
What Jewish denomination is the Jewish Enrichment Center affiliated with?
The Jewish Enrichment Center is not affiliated with any denomination or movement of Judaism, and our community represents a wide range of Jewish beliefs and practices. Many of our families are affiliated with other synagogues or temples in the Chicago area; many of our families are not affiliated with any other Jewish institutions. Our curriculum encourages children to explore Jewish texts and traditions, and to develop their own personal interpretation of, and relationship with, Judaism. Our children and families have a wide range of beliefs and practices around God, Jewish holidays, and Jewish texts.
What ages does your program include?
We run Sunday morning programming for infants and toddlers, and Sunday morning plus Monday – Thursday afternoon programming for three-year-olds through fifth grade children. Middle and high school youth have their own classes, and may also join a local youth group co-led by the Jewish Enrichment Center.
My partner isn’t Jewish / I’m a single parent / I’m raising my grandchildren / My child has two parents of the same gender / We don’t celebrate Jewish holidays at home. Will our family fit in?
What days should we choose? How many days should we choose?
Choose the days that work best for your family. We foster community among the children no matter what days of the week they’re enrolled on. Plus, we offer several age-based and Center- wide opportunities throughout the year for children and families to get to know each other.
Our project-based curriculum makes it possible for children to ask the questions that matter to them, and to wrestle with their questions in ways they prefer, in a community of peers, as part of the long tradition of Jewish conversation. Every session here reflects the mix of children and ideas present that day; every session offers something new.
Why do children attend at least two days/week starting in kindergarten?
The kind of creative, communal, long-term project work we do with children requires them to trust each other, collaborate, and take risks. It takes time to build and sustain the kind of relationships that supports this intensive work.
In addition, children need to revisit their thinking about the current theme at least twice during the week in order to continue developing their ideas. To learn Hebrew in a natural way (i.e., through the auditory environment, through play), children need to hear and play with the language multiple times/week.
Do you teach Hebrew? Does my child need to learn Hebrew?
Hebrew is embedded into the auditory and visual environment, and in the routines of our day, so children pick up the language naturally. Children of all ages play games in Hebrew, often choosing how they would like to engage with the language that day. Hebrew is woven into our physical playtime for younger children, and older children master Hebrew prayers. Comfort with the Hebrew language, and a working vocabulary, are essential to developing confidence in owning the texts of our centuries’-old Jewish conversation. A child who owns these texts can play with Judaism, creating their own meaning in Jewish life and community.
Based on the overwhelming success of our 1:1 Hebrew sessions in 2020-2021, we will continue offering 1:1 Hebrew sessions in 2021-2022. Children have loved this special time with their educators, and we’re seeing Hebrew learning grow by leaps and bounds as educators are able to develop individualized learning strategies. For more information about our Hebrew 1:1 sessions (optional for N-2nd), click here.
Why do you have multiage groupings?
The Jewish Enrichment Center offers multiage groupings in all kevutzot (groups). With a broad range of ages, children learn from other children through role modeling, allowing younger children to be stimulated intellectually by older children and older children to develop self- reliance and responsibility. Multiage groupings also promote friendship between children of various ages, which strengthens the community as a whole. Multiage groupings make it possible for children see that each one of us brings strengths and a unique perspective to our community.
Do you offer Jewish enrichment when school is closed?
Yes! We offer Special Days: full days of Jewish enrichment for children Pre-K – fifth grade when local schools are closed for national holidays and parent teacher conferences. We also run full weeks of Jewish Enrichment Camp during selected school breaks. We spend our Special Days and Camp days playing and exploring a Jewish person (e.g., Marc Chagall) or idea (e.g., the tastes of Passover), culminating in big project by the end of the day or week. The full schedule of Special Days and Jewish Enrichment Camps is available on our website at jewishenrichment.org/specialdays.
Do you offer summer programming?
In Summer 2021, we’ll meet on two Sundays to play in parks around the city, including some Enrichment Center-style fun. This year, we’ll offer meet-ups for rising nursery – first graders and meet-ups for rising second – fifth graders. We’ll also offer a limited number of Hebrew 1:1 sessions for children Pre-K through sixth grade who would like to continue their Hebrew sessions through the summer. Middle and high school youth may join summer programming through the local youth group co-led by the Jewish Enrichment Center. Jewish Enrichment Camp (for rising Pre-K through fifth grade) will run for two weeks at the end of the summer, from August 23 – 27, 2021, and from August 30 – September 3, 2021. Register online today at www.jewishenrichment.org/augustcamp.
Will my child be ready for a Bar Mitzvah or Bat Mitzvah?
Children at the Jewish Enrichment Center develop the skills, knowledge, and confidence to design their own lifelong relationship with Judaism. Starting at an early age, children develop a relationship with the Torah, learn to express their own ideas about Torah and Judaism, and dialogue respectfully with peers. Children learn Hebrew, and they learn Jewish prayers and about Jewish prayer services. By the time children reach the age of B-Mitzvah (a gender neutral term) at the Jewish Enrichment Center, they have acquired foundational Jewish literacy, and also developed their own ideas about what Judaism means to them.
Can we celebrate our child’s B-Mitzvah with the Jewish Enrichment Center?
Yes. We partner with families to design a B-Mitzvah experience that reflects the family’s Jewish life as well as the individuality of the child. Our process proceeds within a family’s lifelong relationship with Judaism and aims to launch children into the next stage of responsibility in their lives. Children who celebrate becoming B-Mitzvah with the Jewish Enrichment Center engage in a personalized, long-term project emerging from their strengths and interests, learn to chant from the Torah, and participate in a ritual that reflects their own and their family’s values.